Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Huge convention hotel that's a world unto itself.
Not only is the Westin Diplomat the biggest hotel in Hollywood, Florida, but it’s also one of the top convention hotels in the country. With meeting space for a whopping 8,000 people, the property is often a blur of conventioneers. Fortunately, the sheer size of the hotel -- plus a designated wing for the Convention Center -- allows leisure and business travelers to coexist without much friction.
The enormous lobby is filled with palm trees, shiny marble floors, and a long fountain; it feels more like a high-end shopping mall than the first floor of a hotel. Three of the Diplomat’s six restaurants are located here -- Hollywood Prime Steakhouse, The Café, and BarSu -- plus a market that sells snacks and sandwiches.
For most guests, the main attraction lies just beyond the lobby, where the beach and two huge pools are located. During my visit the pool area was buzzing (though nowhere near it’s maximum capacity) with excited kids, sunbathers, and people eating at the poolside bar, Splash. Guests looking for extra peace and quiet were tucked away in tent-like cabanas on the area’s perimeter. Down on the beach, things were noticeably quieter and less crowded.
There’s not much nightlife at the hotel outside of the restaurants, most of which shut down around 11 p.m. Guests who want to stay out later can head to the bar and sushi restaurant, BarSu, or the sports bar, Rivals, which is located across the street via a pedestrian bridge.
Quaint beach town has plenty to do, but nothing within walking distance.
The hotel is located on a narrow barrier island, cut off from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway (though there are numerous bridges). This island runs from Miami to Fort Lauderdale, and it’s prime residential real estate. For this reason, the Diplomat is surrounded by beachfront condos, high-rise apartment buildings, and little else.
With no restaurants, shops, or nightlife within walking distance, car-less guests are left to explore Hollywood by taxi, water taxi, or the Hollywood Trolley. The water taxi departs from the hotel dock, located on the Intracoastal Waterway across the street. Riders can buy an unlimited day pass that allows them to hop on and off at stops in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. An announcer also educates riders on local history and wildlife along the way.
For only $1 the Hollywood Trolley will also take tourists to a dozen stops along Hollywood’s beaches and downtown. The trolley stops in front of the hotel five days a week and leaves every 30 minutes.
Hollywood offers a more relaxed, quiet beach vacation than neighboring Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Visitors come for the soft-sand beaches and the boardwalk -- a popular hangout featuring inexpensive restaurants, bars, and live entertainment.
Most rooms feel run-of-the-mill, but the views, beds, and bathrooms are above average.
The rooms are a bit drab and run-of-the-mill compared to the rest of the property, but all the essentials are there: fully stocked minibars, flat-screen TVs, Westin's signature Heavenly Beds, and good-sized bathrooms.
The hotel has seven room types that differ mainly by view and floor space, ranging from about 400 square feet to 710 square feet. The largest and most impressive rooms are Corner Suites, which have nice views of the ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, plus pull-out sofas. They are also the only rooms designed to sleep four people (every other room sleeps two).
Club Level Suites on the top three floors (33 to 36) come with Executive Lounge access. The lounge has an outdoor patio with excellent views and serves free breakfast in the mornings.
Nice public beach with rental chairs and umbrellas, but no food service
The hotel sits on a lovely stretch of public beach, which is easily accessed by walking past the first floor pool area. The Diplomat has its own chairs, umbrellas, beach beds, and shaded cabanas available for rent, but there’s unfortunately no food or beverage service due to a citywide law.
Activities include beach volleyball, bocce ball, an oversized checkers board, and horseshoes. Rental Jet Skis, small catamarans, and kayaks are also available from hotel staff, and guests can head into the water directly from the beach.
The beach has soft sand and virtually no unsightly seaweed or trash. The Clean Beaches Coalition recognized Hollywood’s beach as one of Florida’s six cleanest beaches in 2012.
Despite the size of the hotel, the beach was relatively quiet during my visit, with plenty of empty lounge chairs and cabanas available.
Two huge hotel pools, plus a third pool at the golf course
The hotel features two huge pools stacked on top of one another. The smaller of the two is the Infinity Pool, which has a circular glass window in the bottom, allowing guests to look down into the pool below. Likewise, people swimming in the lower-level Lagoon Pool can look up and see anything from bathing beauties to kids mooning each other for laughs.
The Infinity Pool has a six-inch shallow end for toddlers, and both pools have an accompanying whirlpool.
The general pool area is usually buzzing with excited kids, sunbathers, and people eating at the bar. Blue tents, or casitas, are available for rent next to the upper pool, and fancier indoor cabanas with TV and air-conditioning are available next to the lower pool. When this large hotel gets busy, the cabanas and casitas get snatched up fast, so guests should reserve theirs early.
The pool bar and grill, Splash, is located next to the lower-level Lagoon Pool. It has its own dining area on a terrace overlooking the ocean, and guests can carry food back to their lounge chairs and casitas. The most basic food and cocktail combo is at least $25, so don’t forget your Visa card.
Most guests are unlikely to visit the third pool, located five minutes away at the golf and tennis area. This pool is smaller and quieter than the main pools, and -- though it lacks food and drink service -- is a nice alternative for those seeking a more private place to swim.
A new “Heavenly Spa” opened in 2013.
The Westin “Heavenly Spa” opened at the main hotel in 2013.
Lots of family features, including a Kids' Club, babysitting services, and kids’ menus in five restaurants.
Children ages four to 12 can be dropped off at the Westin Kids Club for full- or half-day sessions, and a “Kids Night Out” program looks after kids from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday nights. The club has a playroom, and staff members take children on excursions to the beach, pool, and other parts of the hotel. The camp is reasonably priced and includes snacks. Full meals are included with Friday night sessions and full-day sessions. The hotel has no in-room babysitting services, but can arrange for babysitters to come from a local company.
The Infinity Pool has a six-inch shallow end for toddlers. The beach is monitored by city lifeguards and has free kids toys, such as shovels and pails. All the restaurants also have kids’ menus, except for Hollywood Prime.
The most family-friendly rooms are Corner Suites, which have pull-out sofas and are designed to sleep four people (every other room type sleeps two, though rollaways and cribs are available in certain rooms). The hotel also has connecting rooms.
Parents with children under 12 should take advantage of the hotel’s Kids Pass program, which includes unlimited drinks and meals (from kids’ menus) for a flat daily fee of $18.
Six restaurants scattered throughout the property
It’s easy to find something to eat at the Westin Diplomat. There are three restaurants located within the main lobby, one at the pool, one across the street at the hotel dock, and one at the golf and tennis location five minutes away. Guests in a hurry can also grab a snack or sandwich in the lobby market, Ingredients. Room service is available 24 hours a day.
The swankiest restaurant is Hollywood Prime Steakhouse, open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday within the hotel lobby. A bar, formal dining room, 15-person private dining room, and over 600 wines are available inside.
The Café is a casual restaurant accessed through the hotel lobby. It’s open for breakfast and lunch and serves overpriced versions of traditional entrees, like omelets, cereal, burgers, and wraps.
Rivals Waterfront Sports Grille is a traditional sports bar restaurant, located at the hotel’s private dock across the street on the Intracoastal Waterway. Guests can access the restaurant by crossing an elevated pedestrian walkway. Rivals opens in the evenings on weekdays and at noon on weekends. It’s also one of the only venues open past 11 p.m.
BarSu is open for dinner and doubles as the main lobby bar and a sushi restaurant. Aside from Rivals, it’s the only venue open past 11 p.m.
The pool bar and grill, Splash, is located next to the lower-level Lagoon Pool. It has its own dining area on a terrace overlooking the ocean. It serves a variety of cold drinks, cocktails, and typical bar food. Splash is open daily and closes around sunset.
Links Restaurant & Lounge is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the golf course. The daytime dining is casual, while the dinner dining is more formal. Pan-seared salmon is an example of a typical entree. Food is served indoors or outside on a terrace overlooking the golf course. A free shuttle leaves every 30 minutes to take guests to the golf course, located about five minutes away.
Having so many on-site restaurants is a treat for business travelers, who typically get reimbursed for meals, but vacationers on a budget should be wary. A family of four could easily spend $300 a day on food. Parents with children under 12 should sign up for a Kids Pass that includes unlimited drinks and meals (from kids’ menus) for a flat daily fee.
Plenty of wines and cocktails to go around
With over 600 wines at Hollywood Prime Steakhouse, three bars, and a variety of beer and liquor in every minibar, guests will have ample drink selection.
Outside, Splash Poolside Grille & Bar serves an assortment of wine, beer, and cocktails by the glass or by the pitcher. Inside, BarSu -- the lobby bar and sushi restaurant -- serves wine, fruity cocktails, mojitos, and signature saki martinis.
A sports bar, Rivals, is located at the hotel’s private dock across the street. Rivals serves fruity, beer-infused martinis, wine, champagne, and beer. The bar opens in the evenings on weekdays and at noon on weekends.
BarSu serves dim sum and specialty drinks on weeknights from 5:30 to 7:30, and Rivals has a happy hour on Friday evenings.
24-hour room service, sports shops, and laundry service
Championship, 18-hole golf course with instructors
Golf, tennis, and water sports -- for a price
A fitness center is currently located five minutes away at the golf facility, but a new one is scheduled to open at the main hotel in 2013.
Massive convention center can accommodate up to 8,000 guests.
Great Hall and four ballrooms are perfect for giant weddings.
The Diplomat is known for its ability to host huge weddings. Many Indian ceremonies are held here because the hotel can accommodate live elephants and thousands of guests.
The Diplomat has a long list of celebrity guests, including Will Smith, President Obama, and Jerry Seinfeld.
The long list of celebrity guest includes:
Green certified convention center and recycling program
Ongoing renovations, plus a new spa and fitness center in the works
Originally built in 1958, the 39-story Diplomat was reconstructed from the ground up in 2002. In 2011 the furniture and carpeting were updated, and in 2012 the pool furniture was replaced and the lobby was renovated. The Westin “Heavenly Spa” and fitness center is scheduled to open in 2013. They are currently located at the golf course facility, an inconvenient shuttle ride away.
Despite ongoing renovations, some of more basic rooms look rough around the edges. During my stay I found a mysterious towel left on my balcony and a fair amount of dirt on the balcony floor. My sheets were also wrinkled and water spots were visible on the bathroom mirror. Minor offenses to some -- gross to others.
Basic ADA services, plus pool accessibility
The hotel has standard ADA compliant guestrooms, plus wheelchair accessible pool chairs.
This massive 998-room resort may lack the personality and charm of its smaller competitors, but it has extensive features. Highlights include an 18-hole golf course, two huge outdoor pools with cabanas and bar service, a full-service spa, six distinct restaurants, rental Jet Skis and kayaks, and direct access to a lovely stretch of public beach. The rooms are somewhat drab for the price, but travelers stay here for the amenities, not the decor. With no restaurants close to the resort, guests should come prepared to pay the Diplomat’s inflated food prices. Those looking for a smaller -- and less costly -- version of the Diplomat might consider the Marriott Hollywood Beach, located about two miles up the coast.